Scandinavian Coffee Culture
Over the past six hundred years, coffee has traveled the globe, earning accolades and creating addicts in every corner of the planet. More than perhaps any other drink, coffee is never simply absorbed by a culture; it is brewed into the fabric of society, with unique cultural customs sprouting up around it as drinking practices reflect each culture’s core values.
Nowhere is this more evident than in Scandinavia. The irony, of course, is that few places on earth might be considered more hostile to the coffee plant itself; yet the people of this region have taken up coffee drinking with a fervor unrivaled anywhere else, with Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Denmark topping the list of annual coffee consumption per capita. For example, the average Finn drinks a whopping 26 lbs of coffee per year and it is legally mandated in Finland that all workers must be given two ten-minute coffee breaks. Now that’s some legislation I could get behind.
Of course, coffee’s popularity in the Scandinavian countries has inspired a distinct coffee roasting culture. While French and Italian coffees are generally roasted dark, Scandinavians have developed a unique profile of lighter roast coffees known more broadly as Nordic style. Early critics scoffed at what they considered to be ‘underdeveloped’ flavor profiles but the test of time and years of fine-tuning have produced a truly memorable coffee-tasting experience.
Bjørnar Hafslund, founder of Brattestø Roastery in Norway, postulates that Norwegians, as well as other Scandinavians, are more attuned to the sharper, acidic flavors of lighter roasts because of the food sources available in that climate; brined fish and tart berries made up much of the locally foraged diet for hundreds of years and still serve as important components of local cuisine. In fact, Norway’s ready supply of fish was traded directly for quality coffee beans from Brazil, again contributing to the development of their unique coffee culture. I personally find it fascinating that the Nordic style tasting profile is reminiscent of the traditional local diet!
It might be said that Scandinavian culture is in the limelight currently, with cultural concepts such as Denmark’s hygge and Norway’s koselig permeating our concept of home design and healthy living. While certain Vancouver Island roasters, such as Drumroaster Coffee in Cobble Hill, have Scandinavian family ties, one may also sample coffees directly from Lykke Coffee Roasters in Sweden and Norlo Coffee Roasters from the UK thanks to Sara and Dan, owners of the newly-opened lifestyle shop Hoxton Home. Located in Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter, Hoxton Home provides not only imported Scandinavian coffee but a wide array of stylish home decor, including some fantastic coffee brewing hardware and coffee tableware to impress your Scandinavian friends.
Stop by Hoxton Home to pick up a bag of Scandinavian coffee and open yourself to the world of Nordic roasts! As always, travel safe and brew on.
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About the Curator
Joshua Gillingham is an author, board game designer, and coffee lover from Vancouver Island. He curates the Vancouver Island Coffee Tour. For questions or comments about VICT, map updates, or roaster openings and closures, send him a note via the community contact form.